Christopher Rivera completed his interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Women’s and Gender Studies from Rutgers University in August 2009. A recipient of the Southern Regional Education Board Dissertation Fellowship, in 2009 he secured a position for one year as Visiting Assistant Professor in race/ethnicity studies in the Comparative American Studies Program at Oberlin College, Ohio. In 2010 he was offered a position as Assistant Professor of American Culture and Literature, Department of American Culture and Literature, Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey.
My dissertation is a study and contextualization of the three ethnic autobiographies of Chicano public intellectual Richard Rodriguez, The Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez (1982), Days of Obligation: An Argument with my Mexican Father (1992), and Brown: The Last Discovery of America (2003). Since the publication of Hunger of Memory, Rodriguez is identified as being against political programs like affirmative action or a “poster boy” for right-wing politics. I argue for a more critical approach to Rodriguez’s controversial role in Chicana/o and Latina/o literary and cultural studies. I explore the evolution of the author-protagonist, Richard, and highlight how his struggles are exemplary of postcolonial subjects negotiating their way through Americanization. Assimilation produces psychosexual discourses that I analyze as particular to a colonized subject’s identity that is ambivalently positioned as at once typically American yet always outside the definition of what it means to be “authentically American.” Building upon Octavio Paz’s “penetration paradigm” and expanding the implicit queer reading of la chingada and el rajado metaphors defined in Laberinto de la soledad (1950), my project articulates how the concepts of penetration, rejection, and ambivalence become strategies of resistance postcolonial subjects manipulate in pursuit of (in)authentic Americanism. Spanning the U.S.-Mexican border, Rodriguez narrates the location the deviant, brown subject assumes in historical and present narratives of nation formation. Rodriguez presents a colonized American subject who openly defends and explores various ambivalent processes of acculturation and assimilation. Instead of adhering to Paz’s notion of impervious national masculinity, Rodriguez narrates his experiences as prototypical of the life of a deviant and dark subject who acknowledges the benefits and losses of openly admitting to inhabiting ambivalent locations in culture. Recognizing the relationship nations and individuals have with their ambivalence regarding penetration and rejection becomes crucial because admission is read as submission in the epistemology of penetration that my project delineates. Through close reading the autobiographies of Rodriguez, I identity a subtext of desire; it is a desire for memory, for the creation of alternative narratives and alternative spaces for postcolonial American life and subjectivity.